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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

62

The Loom of Language

them in his own language In this way they learn the signs as symbols
of sounds without any separate meaning Imagine what might have
happened if the English had used public notices m pictmc writing
during the wars of Edward III Let us also suppose that the French
had been wholly illiterate at the time. When a Frenchman pointed
to the pictogram V^ the informative Englishman would utter the
sound cocky corresponding to the Fiench coq When he pointed at
the logogram Wr, he would get the response lord, sufficiently near
to the French vocable lourde^ which means heavy Without knowing
precisely what significance an Englishman attached to the symbols,
he might proceed to make up the combination "^ '& standing

VOWEJUsT—
		
Slavonic1
	A a. Qa'
	EeHw

Gjrixck. ,
	Aoc1
	Ee^H^^

Roman,.™-
	A
	E

Insli ___
	a
	O

Gf&rtuo' „
	Sf a
	^c

OoYy    K)

10

1
J

O
O

JO

Uu7

V

u

Uu

Hebrew symboL wtfli
tin ttQiiiydjztLh m our

ftalcph

ay in

FIG 12 — VOWEL SYMBOLS oz« SOMB CONTEMPORARY ALHIATU xs

for coquelourde (meaning a Pasque-flower) in the belief that he was
learning the new English trick of writing things down,
Needless to say., this is a parable We must not take it too literally.
We know next to nothing about what the hmng languages of dead
civilizations were like, but one thing is certain Transition from a
cumbersome script of logograms^ or from a muddle of pictograms,
logograms, and phonographic puns, to the relative simplicity of syllable
writing, demands an effort which no privileged class of scholar-priests
has ever been able to make It has happened when illiterate people
with no traditional prejudices about the correct way of doing things
have come into contact with an already literate culture. Whether
they can succeed in doing so depends on a lock and key relation between
the structure of the living languages involved in the contact between
a literate and non-literate culture. They can succeed if, and only iŁ>